Installing KiCAD on Mac OS X

December 8, 2011

in Tinkering

KiCAD logo

Recently I got more and more fed up by EAGLE CAD. It is a good EDA tool. But the restrictions are really starting to bother me. I need to do more 4 layer boards. Perhaps bigger boards. And I do not want to invest some thousand Euros just to be able to design bigger boards or more layers on the PCB. And since I am unhappy with my libraries anyway it was a good point to try out a new tool.

As you may remember the Mac OS X support in KiCAD is experimental. And from my first impression: Yes it is.Getting it up and running is a major task by itself. So I am writing down my experiences. Perhaps this helps anybody.

Downloading KiCAD

This is the easiest part. I went to the KiCAD wiki download section and checked the experimental builds. I settled for the builds by Brokentoaster since they got some fine installation package for Mac OS X. Just for the records: The version number while doing this was v3052 as the latest stable build. That’s what I grabbed.

Installing KiCAD

After the installation I checked what it installed – and was not very pleased. It just created an Folder /Applications/kicad/ with some demo files in it. No binary, no documentation, no nothing. I tried the second download link on broken toaster for the .tgz of the same build. And there it was. The application folder by the installation routine still belonged to my user. Not as I expected it to be, but very handy to add the files from the .tgz archive. Finally a complete installation. Starting KiCAD was easy and it worked out of the box. I was a bit puzzled that the first project was created in the Application directory. But nothing a new project in another location could fix. Fine!

But running eeschma showed me that I was not nearly there. All necessary libraries where missing. A good sign that the installation was not complete. After some googling I found an file INSTALL.txt. in /Applications/Kicad/share/doc/kicad/INSTALL.txt. It’s content completely solved the mystery:

The parts of KiCad
KiCad consists of 3 packages:

kicad         - KiCad programs and core files.
kicad-doc     - Documentation and interactive help (optional package).
kicad-library - KiCad schematic, pcb & 3D-model libraries (optional package).

Obviously the package for Mac OS X contains only the KiCAD program and core files. But neither the documentation nor the essential libraries – hence the error messages. Some lines below there was some super secret hint where to put the libraries and documentation:

Mac OS X KiCad tree
System wide files
 /Library/Application Support/kicad/demos
 /Library/Application Support/kicad/internat
 /Library/Application Support/kicad/library
 /Library/Application Support/kicad/modules
 /Library/Application Support/kicad/modules/packages3d
User files can be the same as the system wide files but only inside the users home directory.
$HOME/Library/Application Support/kicad
 These paths are hardcoded into KiCad, if you put them somewhere else KiCad will not find them when a new
 project is created.

So back to the download page and get a complete Linux package to extract the documentation. I went for the complete Ubuntu installation. It was nearly the same version and had ‘complete’ on the cover. Downloading and unzipping it it showed me a beautiful Linux file tree with all the needed files. Since I am the only person on this computer using KiCAD I created ~/Library/Application Support/kicad and copied the directories ‘demos‘, ‘internat‘, ‘library‘ and ‘modules‘.

The Result

After copying all the necessary files in all the necessary locations gave me complete and functional KiCAD installation. There are some graphics glitches in the schematic editor. But I hope that those are gone in one of the next versions.

So off to check the tutorial to do something useful with my fresh installation!

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